Merry Christmas Everyone!

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!

Once again we reach that time of year, readers. A celebration that comes once every twelve months, as the Earth spins around the sun. A time of year when many feel a yearning, a driving need to reach out, to take hold of those hands around them and pull them up.

Recently I’ve been watching a new show on streaming. Don’t worry, this isn’t a non-sequitur. It connects. Anyway, this is a Christmas-themed show, as you might guess, that means that it delves into what Christmas means. It even went as far as to say that Christmas is the season of hope, that brings hope to mankind. And … then they sort of froze for a moment, without saying why it brought hope, and just sort of had to leave it hanging, even though they were diving into what Christmas was and why it was so important.

Why the freeze? Well, I’d hazard a guess that it’s because its a show produced for a global streaming service, and either the show or the producers weren’t keen on outright digging into the cause of that hope, the reason the whole holiday exists in the first place, when a large portion of their audience might not hold to that.

In a way, it was almost amusing, because the hole left there as the characters moved on definitely did hang a lampshade on things.

Why Christmas. Why hope? What makes this season, above all others around the calendar year the “season of perpetual hope?”

Because of what it represents. Two-thousand-odd years ago, a birth unlike any other took place. In manger, a most unassuming location, and yet heralded by choirs of angels and a new star in the sky.

But why hope? What about this birth was cause for such revelry? What was so significant about this child that now, thousands of years later, billions still celebrate this Christmas Eve and Christmas Day—though we know it was not the actual date of the birth, its representative—to honor that solemn occasion? What about that birth brings us hope?

Because of who that child was. Jesus the Christ, the Savior of Mankind. A long-prophesied Messiah who would take upon Himself the sins and pains of all mankind, paying the due of justice so that He, in turn, could serve as the Advocate for each and every member of the human race. A divine being who through which would give every single person the chance not just to improve, but to live again.

That’s why Christmas is the season of perpetual hope. Because of the hope that being brought to all mankind. Even for those who aren’t believers in Christ, the hope of something better, something eternal, something divine, that we can improve toward, wrapped aside the concept that a divine being cares so much about them, individually, that they would give them that chance … Well, that means something.

And yeah, some of you coming here, to this site, on Christmas … you may not believe. I still hope that for you, this season is still touching, still finds a way to bring you peace, bring to your mind what you yearn and hope for, just as it did for those shepherds thousands of years ago.

Me? I do. I stand firm in my knowledge that this being, that Savior, Jesus Christ, was born long ago, fulfilling prophecy that had been taught since the world began. While His birth was not the crux of His mission, it was the start of it, and tonight, tomorrow, and through this season, the hope that He brought and continues to bring? That is the hope of the Christmas season we celebrate.

Merry Christmas to all of us. May we all feel the spirit of the season, the hope that it stands for, and the triumph of the ages that it signifies.

Merry Christmas, readers. Peace on Earth, and good will toward men, not just tonight, today, or tomorrow, but for as long and often as we can spread it.

Fancy Some Christmas Music?

Hey folks! I’m on my Christmas Vacation, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some content! So today I’m linking back to a fun post we did last year where I encouraged everyone to share Christmas tunes in the comments after sharing a few of my own favorites! And once again, like a Bernie advertisement, I’m asking for you to chip in! Save that I’m pointing you folks to the comments to share youtube links to your favorite Christmas carols, songs, etc! Let’s give everyone the gift of some more holiday music to enjoy! Here are a few of mine—fresh, not from last year’s—to get you all started!

Christmas Everyday by Gia Farrell

In Wonderment of Winter by Gareth Coker

Across the Frozen Expanse by Abadoss
Last Christmas by Jimmy Eat World

Let It Snow by Chris Isaak

That’s some of what’s in my Christmas playlist? How about you? Merry Christmas, readers!

Classic Being a Better Writer: Most Popular Edition

Merry Christmas, writers! This week’s Being a Better Writer is not a new installment, but rather a revisit of some old classics. Since, you know, it’s Christmas and I am most definitely on my break. Which after getting Starforge out on time, I’m going to enjoy.

Now, before I dive into things, I do want to stress that Starforge has just come out. If you’re looking for a last-minute Christmas gift for that Sci-Fi loving reader you know, you can grab that first book in the trilogy for a pretty low price. You can get the whole trilogy for that matter, if you just click this link.

Anyway, that’s all the shilling I’ll do today. Promise. The rest of this post is about writing! Though some of you may find it a bit familiar, since it will be a selection of classic posts.

But maybe not. If you’re new, or missed a week, perhaps this will be the first time you’ve ever seen these posts! For this year’s holiday vacation installment of Being a Better Writer, I thought I’d peer back through time and see what the most popular BaBW post of each year was.

That’s right. We’re going to gaze into the past and see what the most read Being a Better Writer post was out of several years across the site’s seven-year history! So sit back, grab yourself a cup of hot chocolate, put on your fuzzy reindeer slippers, and let’s take a look together at some classic blasts from the past! Hit the jump!

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My Christmas Break is About to Begin

Hey folks! Max here with a heads-up. I’m about to start my Christmas Vacation. Or Christmas Break. I like to think of it as a break because I take a break from writing and running the site for a while. Usually I try to pick one game from my backlog and power through it, but this year I’ve spent the last two or so months working my way through BattleTech and I’m still not done yet (and still having fun) so that might be this year’s contender.

Granted, I’ll also be spending about a week or so of my Christmas Break to visit family, chiefly one of my nephews. So that’s definitely going to be a good chunk of my holiday time.

And who knows? With the ability to just do whatever I feel like for each and every day, I might actually break the bad sleep habits I got into this year working on Starforge!

Speaking of Starforge, some of you have to be nearing the end by now. Those of you that are quick readers, at least, and may have made a few “sacrifices” of time to be able to power through all 1,900 or so pages in the two weeks it’s been out.

What’s the reaction so far? Are the reveals everything you’d hoped? Or are they even more? Have you found yourself caught off-guard or by surprise by a sudden revelation yet? How is it to see both the All and our mysterious drones from the first book now showing off all their capabilities?

Soo, once the new year starts, I will be writing up a full “It’s finally done” sort of post to talk about the trilogy. Now that the ending is out in the open, and everything that the last—for me—eight years have worked toward is complete, and I definitely do want to close out this fantastic journey that you’ve all been part of with some final thoughts.

But that’ll be after the New Year and my break is over. In the meantime, that gives those of you that are journeying through Starforge a few more weeks to finish it off without worrying about any spoilers that will be in that wrap-up post … Because inevitably, there are going to be serious spoilers.

It’s an Epic Sci-Fi Trilogy of 1.3 million words. It’s hard to discuss it without bringing up spoilers.

But that’s for after New Years. Between then and now, I do plan to drop a few more posts just so the site isn’t content-starved for the next two weeks. Monday, for example, I’ll have a pre-schedule post going up. It won’t be a new Being a Better Writer, but one of those “classic” compilations featuring prior posts. There won’t be a Being a Better Writer the week after, but then that’s going to be the day after Christmas, so if you’re looking for site content you’ll just have wait for a little bit. Though I’ll applaud you for looking for content so thoroughly.

After that it’ll be the New Year, and things will move back into their schedule.

For now though, I’ll be sure to drop an official post when my Christmas Break does begin, just to wish everyone a big ol’ Merry Christmas, but for now I’ll say it here and get this stuff setup for the next few weeks, as well as do a little more work on that next book.

Merry Christmas everyone. May it be full of peace and joy.

Being a Better Writer: Balancing Beats and Exposition

Welcome back, writers, to the final Being a Better Writer installment of 2022!

I know, right? It really doesn’t feel like we should have come this far already, but … here we are. 2022 is drawing to a close in less than three weeks. As to why that would make this post the last of 2022, I still need my Christmas Vacation, which is usually around two weeks this time of year. Which means that, to my surprise, when I looked at the calendar today to check my schedule, I realized that if I wanted my customary vacation, this was going to have to be the last BaBW post of 2022.

Now, this doesn’t mean all the posts will vanish for a while. There’s always a Christmas post. And there are usually a few other posts scattered in there about the usual odds and ends. Plus my vacation won’t officially start until next week. So this week I’ll continue to chug along on that latest Jacob Rocke book, plus keep up with the usual (or is it “unusual” right now?) stuff.

Anyway, if you find yourself hungering for Being a Better Writer while I’m on my Christmas break, you can always browse a selection of the site’s classic posts! At this point, pretty much typing any writing question into the site’s search bar will bring you a BaBW post that touches on the topic. Nine years of Monday updates (since August of 2013) will do that.


All right, so that’s the Christmas break discussed, but we’ve got a few other items of important business to tackle before we get down to nuts and bolt’s with today’s post. The largest of which is pretty easy to guess: How’s Starforge doing?

The answer is pretty awesome: It’s doing great. The whole trilogy is. Now that another week has passed it’s pretty clear that this is definitely one of my strongest, if not the strongest, launches ever. Starforge is tearing it up on page reads and purchases, along with both the first two books in the trilogy. I’m not certain if anyone’s managed to finish it yet, since it is such a titan (you could fit six large paperbacks inside this juggernaut), but from what I’m hearing and seeing everyone’s loving the journey.

Although if you have finished it, do please consider leaving a rating or a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or wherever you read and rate books. Ratings help new folks who haven’t heard about the series via word of mouth if they want to pick it up!

Now, related to this news item, and honestly the other big news item of the weekend, is a little snippet about Colony, the first book in the trilogy. It is a quarterfinalist in the Self-Published Sci-Fi Contest! The reviewers had some pretty nice things to say about it as well. Now it moves ahead to the next phase of the annual contest: culling for the finals!

We’ll see if it makes it. I hope it does. Regardless, it was pretty nice to see out of nowhere a bunch of nice words lavished on Colony about how much it was worth reading.


Okay, one last bit of news. I promise. And it’s short. If you haven’t seen it already, be sure you don’t miss last Friday’s post on the Ten Year Price Update. This weekend most of the price changes on a number of my books went through, but there are still a few that haven’t been completely updated (for boring technical reasons, quite honestly), but will in the coming weeks. The new prices are now up, the chart explains them in full, and if you’re curious about any of them you can hit that link to the above post.

Got it? Okay, good. It’s time to talk about today’s topic. Which, I will note, is a request topic! That’s right, we’re finally getting around to it! And I can very easily see why it is a request topic: because it’s a hard one!

If you hadn’t gathered the full nature of today’s topic from the title—and no shame there, don’t worry—the request for this post posited how one could properly balance their story beats with their exposition. This is a completely understandable topic to have concern about.

That said, it’s also a difficult skill to properly pull off in any book. How difficult? I’ve read award-winning titles that have swept notable awards from “important” organizations that have flummoxed their exposition and their story beats. This is something that writers of all experience levels struggle with.

It’s also something that you are not going to be getting perfectly the first time around. Or the second. Or the third. You can work on it, you can improve it, but the odds are that this is going to be one of the things your early editing folks look for. In fact, this is one of the things that the Alpha Reading looks for during that stage of editing. And wouldn’t you know it, I know for a fact that authors that sell tens of millions of books still have folks going through their manuscripts looking for exactly today’s topic and helping the author refine things.

My point being that this is a lifelong struggle for every author, and very much a part of the job that every author and writer, from the newest noob to the most decorated of wordsmiths has to pay close attention to.

I realize that may be upsetting to some of you, including perhaps the individual that requested this topic, but it shouldn’t be. Learning how to balance your exposition with your story beats—or better yet, carefully interweave them—is akin to learning exactly how much traction a race car’s tires have on each spot of pavement during a complicated, winding course. In other words it isn’t something you learn about and then forget, but something that will be important to keep in mind with every twist and turn of your book.

Okay, so with all this said, let’s hit the jump and start talking about the how as opposed to anything else. You ready? You know what to do.

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The Price We Pay – Ten Year Edition!

You know, now that I’ve reached this point I almost don’t know what to say.

Technically I’m not at my ten year anniversary of publication just yet. But I’m long past it in writing. Even if one only counts my career as “starting” when I first wrote One Drink all those years ago, I’d be past the point of a ten-year anniversary there, and I was writing long before One Drink came along.

But … we’re close. February 20th, 2023, to be exact, will mark the ten-year anniversary of the publication of my first book, and my foray into making a living as an author.

It’s been a long road. But I’m not hear to talk about that today. Instead I’m here to talk about something else, actually. My pricing. See, here’s the thing … I sort of haven’t updated most of my prices since I started ten years ago.

Axtara reflects a more modern price point. As does Starforge. But the rest of my library? Well, if you remember the classic (and still quite popular) post on book prices, The Price We Pay – Are Book Prices Too Much? from a few years back, I broke down the pricing points of my books and showed how they were chosen to reflect a price point below that of a 1994 paperback book.

It’s a pretty popular post for a reason, since it not only discusses my prices, but also those of the book industry in general, showing how people’s memories of prices—especially with regards to how inflation and the changing value of the dollar fluctuate over time and impact the price of goods.

But here’s the thing: That post? It’s out of date. Especially in the wake of the last several years, which has seen the US economy—and the value of the dollar—fluctuate wildly as the economy did its best to represent a Six Flags roller coaster. Combined with the fact that I’d not bothered to modify my price points since One Drink came out ten years ago, plus the drop in price as the “long tail” goes into effect … and my books have been rapidly dropping below market value.

Which brings us to today. Starforge has just released, at a newer price point, and the time has finally come. Starting today, as of this post going up, I will be updating book prices for (hopefully) the next ten years alongside updating the usual manuscript updates and whatnot to the latest editions. The prices will then go live over the next day or so.

I’ve been talking about it for weeks, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to any of you. And if it is … well, I really can’t be blamed for that.

The big gist of it is that book prices are being updated today. But … if you want a more detailed breakdown of what the new prices are, what the values look like compared to their prior price, and how that is modeled compared to the prices from 1994 … then hit the jump.

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One Week of Starforge!

Well, it’s been a week. How are you folks finding Starforge?

This is, I think, the challenge with writing books of a truly staggering size. The book might release on a certain day, but when it contains nearly four-times the adventure of what would already be considered a fairly large book, one has to account for the fact that no matter how gripping it winds up being, it’s still going to take even the quickest, most efficient reader four times as long to get through it. It’s a basic function of the math. If a three-hundred page book takes a reader a week to get through, than something that weighs in at six times that is going to take, well, six times as long. There’s just an upper limit on how quickly someone can process words, and adding more words means it’s going to take more time.

That said, if we go off of sales alone, Starforge looks like it’s a colossal success, already having blown past first-month sales for most of my books in just a week and continuing to sell. And drawn in quite a few new readers as well, with sales of the entire trilogy topping my sales charts for the last week.

But with all that going on, now that we’re a week in … how are most of you finding it? Where’s everyone at? Have you made it to the end of part two? Part three? Are some of you already closing in on the final chapters? Who’s been your favorite viewpoint character this time around?

I hope it’s been everything you were waiting for.

Oh, and if you haven’t given the finale of the UNSEC Space Trilogy a look yet, you can find it by clicking the massive image above, get a free preview over at the books tab, or check out the whole trilogy at once at this link.

As for me? I’ve got some … unusual … writing to do. I’ll see you Friday!

Being a Better Writer: Crafting a Better Sequel by Using Portal 2 as a Guide

Welcome back, writers! And readers!

I know, I know. I all but vanished after Starforge launched last week. Which, by the way, if you missed it, is finally here, and it is glorious. But after a Reddit AMA and the launch of the book itself, I pretty much disappeared, which was kind of weird, right?

Well, the answer to the why is “I got sick.” Somewhere between working all the extra hours I did to get Starforge out on time and the array of colds and coughs going around right now, I got whammied with a particularly vengeful cold that knocked me out for the entirety of last week. But at least it gave me a chance to catch up on the sleep debt I’d built up during the lead-in to the Starforge launch.

Speaking of which, however, how’s Starforge doing? Well, while it’s still too early to roll out any definitive numbers, just the performance of the first few days suggests that Starforge is very likely my strongest book launch of all time.

Better yet, it’s not slowing down. Sales have continued to roll in over the last week. Constant sales of Starforge and the rest of the trilogy, as well as Kindle Unlimited reads. So much so that a single day over this last weekend accrued more sales than two whole weeks would have earlier this year.

It’s also already pulling in the Five-Star reader responses, which is telling in two ways. First, that it does indeed serve as a fitting and colossal finale to the trilogy as a whole, but also that someone was sucked in hard enough that they finished its entire half a million word length in just a few days from the launch.

Sands and Storms, guys. It was a lot of work, but it looks like it’s paid off. Starforge is the finale you were all waiting for.

If you haven’t checked out the trilogy yet, I highly advise doing so. If you’re a fan of big, grand, colossal-concept Science-Fiction, you owe it to yourself to check the UNSEC Space Trilogy out.


Now then, other quick bits of news before we move into today’s Being a Better Writer. First up: The upcoming price point adjustment. This was slated to happen around Starforge‘s launch, and it still is. But I figured being sick gave everyone a bit of an extra breather. Long story short, I haven’t adjusted the price points of my books in almost ten years (February 2013 to be exact). So one of my projects this upcoming week is a full price adjustment for most of the books in my library.

I will note that I’m still going to be basing my books on the same 1994-inspired values that my prices—with adjustment for inflation—reflected prior to this point, as explained in the original The Price We Pay post on book prices. There will be an updated “Price we Pay” post coming in conjunction with the adjustment, as well as an addendum link to the original post guiding curious readers toward the new price comparison chart.

If you’d rather grab stuff before the adjustment, then this week is your week to do so. I’m aiming to get the new prices out Thursday or Friday, so consider that your cutoff line. Though Starforge will remain the same price, since it’s brand new and already reflects the new price point.


Now, last but not least, what else is coming? Before we launch into today’s Being a Better Writer topic, what’s on the horizon now that Starforge, juggernaut of juggernauts, is out?

Well, I plan to start work on two new novels today, actually. Okay, I’m already working on a new one. It is, at long last, a new Jacob Rocke book. That’s right, a new Unusuals novel! Now, I definitely won’t be able to get it out by the tenth anniversary of the first Jacob Rocke book (as well as my first book overall), but I will likely be able to get it out fairly quickly. No name yet, but if you were one of those readers who loved One Drink and Dead Silver and wanted to see more of the Unusuals setting and Rocke’s adventures, that’s the next book I’ll be working on. I’m still hammering out some of the basic details, but the gist of the story is already starting to take shape.

After that draft gets hammered out, I’ll let it rest while sitting down to work on—and for some of you this will come with an “AT LAST!” proclamation—the next Axtara book, tentatively titled Magic and Mayhem. We’re far from done with either the setting or the titular banking dragoness herself, so look forward to more of that in the future. Speaking of the setting, there was also that short novel I pumped out around September-October set in the same universe about a young fisherman and mermaid that also could be polished up and rewritten …

So yes, suffice it to say that in the wake of Starforge—and as big a book as it was, the wake is pretty colossal—I’ve got plenty to tide me over and work on leading into 2023. Oh, there’s also all those short stories I wrote up over the last year, plus there’s LTUE in 2023, which I just got my schedule for …

Suffice it to say, the future looks bright. Starforge and the rest of the trilogy are tearing up my charts, Axtara just continues to sore and pop up in more bookstores with every passing week, and I’ve got plenty of book projects slated for the coming year. Starforge may be out … but we’re far from done. There’s a lot of adventure coming folks. So though we may be saying farewell to Jake, Anna, and Sweets, there are plenty of friends new and old on their way.


And with that, let’s finally get down to today’s Being a Better Writer topic and start talking about sequels. I know a number of you are likely a little perplexed upon seeing today’s title. After all, Portal 2 is a video game (and if you didn’t know that and are now joining the ranks of the perplexed, bear with me). What could a video game have to offer writers teaching about story?

Well, you’d be surprised. A lot of video games have been no slouch in the storytelling department for decades now, and both Portal titles are no exception. While the story may be presented in a manner that’s different from a book owing to the audio-visual nature of the medium, that doesn’t change the fact that it can be a great story.

But we’re not just talking about Portal 2 today because of how many awards it won (and rightfully so, I’ll add). We’re talking about Portal 2 because despite being in a different medium, it does lay down a very identifiable pattern to follow if you want to create a sequel that exceeds the first in every way.

We’ve talked about the problem with sequels before on this site. Numerous times, in fact, sometimes as the focus of a whole post, other times as a discussion point. But each time it’s been a point of note that what a lot of sequels get wrong about crafting a sequel is “Just do the first story again, maybe with more.” What “more” is varies quite a bit. For movies it usually means more guest celebrity appearances, or explosions. With games it can often mean the same but with new levels slapped in it (usually from the cutting floor of the first title). With books it often means getting the gang back together for another go, sometimes even relearning the exact same lessons as last time.

These are all weak sequels, but they persist because of a common issue, that being that the original concept, be it game, movie, or book, was never written with a follow-up in mind. So when the market says “give us more” the usual response is for the creators to repackage what they already saw success with and shove it out again.

Enter “Round 2: The Sequel.” This is why you’ll read sequel books where characters learn the same lessons again, or regress from their accomplishments and growth in the first book. Or find that the big bad they fought so hard against was—Surprise!—secretly the minion of an ever bigger bad who’s really similar to the last one …

You get the idea. Sequels tend to be really difficult territory for a lot of creators. Writers among them. Time and time again I’ve seen a young writer create a story that is a bit of a hit for them, and react by immediately making a follow-up that is just really the same story as the first, but again.

Portal 2, however, didn’t make that mistake. Instead Portal 2 is widely regarded as one of the greatest sequels of all time. How? Why? And what lessons can we take from it that will make our own sequels stand out against the originals instead of just being a token “Here we go again?” journey?

Hit the jump, and let’s talk about it.

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Starforge Is Here!

What more is there to say? The finale of the UNSEC Space Trilogy has arrived at last. Those of you who pre-ordered should be getting your copies as midnight ticks over, and those of you who didn’t pre-order … you can just go purchase it now! Click the cover below and experience the end of the journey! You can also click here to read the first five chapters for free before you make up your mind!

The end arrives in this epic conclusion to the UNSEC Space Trilogy!

Mankind stands on the edge of a precipice. The All sweep across colony worlds, consuming everything in their path. Earth has recalled her fleets to Sol, abandoning its charges. Pisces, her independence won, now stands alone as a foe unlike any other threatens from the dark. It is not a question of if the All will attack, but when.

Reunited at last, Jake, Anna, and Sweets again find their skills called upon, this time by the new leadership of Pisces. A desperate plan has been conceived, an all-or-nothing long shot out into the darkness of unexplored space to find a means of reactivating the artificial world beneath their feet. If Pisces’ weapons can be brought online there remains a chance that the relentless force of the All can be stopped before it extinguishes the light of mankind forever.

If. Threats move against them from all sides. The All has set its own plans in motion, determined to finish the work it began so long ago. UNSEC and Earth plot from the shadows, uncompromising under Eidre’s vision of a unified empire with Sol at the center, and willing to do anything to bring Pisces back into the fold—even burn it to ashes.

The Trio’s final journey has begun … and it’s an adventure unlike anything you’ve ever read before.

Reddit AMA Today – Starforge Launches Tomorrow!

Welcome back writers and readers both! If you’re wondering where today’s Being a Better Writer post is, well, there isn’t one. That’s because with Starforge releasing tomorrow and as previously announced, today I’ll be doing a Reddit AMA! Which, if you’re not familiar with the acronym, stands for “Ask Me Anything.”

It’s a public Q&A session. Folks on the site ask questions, I type back responses. Generally about the particular focal point of the individual hosting the AMA, though the name does remain “Ask me anything.”

Why do an AMA? Because Starforge comes out tomorrow! It’s finally almost here! Less than twelve hours to go! And I’ve done an AMA for each release with Colony and Jungle. So the last book in the trilogy should definitely get an AMA of its own.

So, proof. Yes Reddit mods, this is me, Max Florschutz. This is my site, and I am indeed doing a Reddit AMA today. I’m not including a picture because unfortunately I’ve come down with a cold, and I don’t exactly look picturesque at the moment—though some may argue when do I ever.

But this is indeed me.

So, hit up the AMA and get asking questions! I’ll be hanging out there until about 5 PM MST, which is a little shorter than my last AMA, but as noted I’m fighting a cold, so I’m going to take it a little easier today.

Enjoy folks, and I’ll see you at the AMA!

OH! And don’t forget! Today is the last day to get the entire UNSEC Space Trilogy on sale!